Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thriller Thursday - Woman's Headless Body Found in River

In 1913, a terrible crime was committed in New York. The accounts are graphic, but if your ancestors lived in New York City, these were the stories they saw on the front page of the Tribune. Eventually the story moved to the inner pages of the newspapers, but it would move back into the headlines, not only in New York, but around the country, when the perpetrator was found. I am no fiction writer, but in transcribing the newspaper accounts as the details of the crime unfolded I will tell the tragic tale of the young lady who was killed and the man who killed her.



Woman's Headless Body Found in River

Limbs Also Severed by the Slayer, Who Displayed Knowledge of Surgery.

Tied in Pillow Ticking

Authorities Find the Makers and Hope to Locate the Purchaser - Corpse Not Long in Water.

A murder mystery that has completely baffled the police came to light last Friday with the discovery of a woman's mutilated body floating in the Hudson River at Woodcliff, N. J. The arms, legs and head had been cut off and the remainder of the body had been tied up in pillow ticking and brown paper, bound with heavy manila cord and a cloth covered wire similar to that used in millinery manufacturing.

The body was found by Alfred Bann, eleven years old, and his sister Mary, eighteen years old, both of Woodcliff.

An autopsy performed by County Physician George W. King and his assistant, Dr. A. P. Harking, at the Hoboken morgue, showed the lungs free of water and the heart empty of blood. Their conclusions were that the woman was murdered, supposedly by stabbing, dismembered and the different parts of the body disposed of.

Dr. King said the woman was about thirty years old, of light complexion, 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighed about 130 pounds.

"The person who dismembered the body," said Dr. King, "knew something about anatomy. I do not think that he was a medical man, for in that case he probably would have punctured the lungs to cause the torso to sink. The head, legs and arms, I think, were thrown overboard, and are probably at the bottom of the Hudson.

"The dissecting was neatly done. The flesh was cut clean and the bones show evidence of having been sawn. There is little likelihood that the body came from a dissecting table. There were no marks of violence, and the only means of identification resemble birth marks. On the right shoulder there are three small dots in a line. They are bluish and look like tattoo marks."

The only clew [sic] on which the prosecutor has to work is a trade mark, "Robinson-Roders, Newark," found on the pillow case. This is of ordinary striped ticking and has a flower design. Detective William J. Charlock, of the prosecutor's office of Hudson County, found the Robinson firm at No. 27 New Jersey avenue, Newark. He learned that the ticking closely resembled a lot manufactured to order.

North and south of where the body was found are settlements of foreigners employed in the factories at Edgewater and Sunnyside. No one has been reported missing in that locality. The authorities point out that the body could have been thrown from a boat or wharf. That it had not been in the water for more than three days was shown by the state of preservation.

Woman's Headless Body Found in River, The New York Tribune, 7 September 1913, page 1, column 6.